What do Shadow IT, a traffic jam and ITSM have in common

The connection between Shadow IT and traffic jams may seem tenuous, but there is a link I would like you to think about.

When I left home this morning to head to the office I turned out of my driveway and immediately joined a long line of bumper-to-bumper traffic that extended all the way to the city…around 10 kilometers.

Around 600 meters up the road a number of cars were taking a left-hand turn and leaving the line of traffic behind…that would take them on a detour through some side streets and eventually rejoining the highway shortly before the city. I do know from experience that, in heavy traffic, this would get me to work a lot faster.

The problem I have is that it is these vehicles rejoining the highway that are actually causing the backlog of traffic…if nobody had taken the detour in the first place we would not have this queue. The perceived resolution to a problem is actually the cause of the issue. The backlog only lasts until the intersection where these vehicles rejoin the stream of vehicles…after that the traffic, while still heavy, speeds up to normal highway speeds. Courteous drivers stopping to let in cars from the side road cause the traffic behind them to build up.

Those ‘down and dirty’ quick fixes to problems are, so often, either compounding or causing the very issues that they are being used to resolve. This is just as true in the IT Service Management arena as it is on my journey to work.

A practice that I put into this category is ‘Shadow IT’.

The practice where business units circumvent their own IT organization and buy their own IT services direct from the vendor.

The reasons for doing this are normally pretty simple – IT has lost credibility with the business, using their resources for supply and support of business applications seems slow and congested…much easier to take the road-less-travelled and bypass the traffic jam heading to the land of SaaS (software as a service) applications to solve their perceived issues. Ultimately this practice damages the IT organization and the business as a whole

Taking that ‘shortcut’ through the back roads adds around 8km to the drive to the city, adding to petrol, tire and general vehicle maintenance. If you take this route every working day you are up for an additional 2000km each year, give or take. Imagine you are a business with a 10 company vehicles that take this detour each day, suddenly you are looking at 20,000km worth of costs added to the bottom line each year.

When a business unit sources their own external IT services, they decrease the IT organization’s opportunity to secure competitive pricing using bulk purchasing power. I recently worked for an organization that had a lot of shadow IT going on out in the business, two business units had agreements with the same software provider for modules of the same SaaS system. Each had a different account manager on the vendor side and had different support agreements, one unit was paying significantly more for vendor consultancy services than the other.

As if that was not bad enough, both business units decided that they needed additional work done on their systems and employed separate business analysts, from different ITSM consultancy companies to determine their needs. Nowhere along the way was any internal IT expertise brought into these discussions.

This is an IT department that has a lot of work to do. They need to take back the power, rebuild their reputation and prove to the business that they are efficient and provide real business advantages through vendor management, support and purchasing processes. A situation like I have described above is an opportunity for the IT organization to do just that…show some initiative, step in and say ‘enough is enough’, the business has mandated us to be your IT supplier and that is what we are going to do.

Time to step out of the shadows and do what you exist for…provision, support and maintain ALL IT services for the business. To do this you need to prove that you are an enabler, not a bottleneck.


• Posted by Cecile Hurley on Aug 25, 2014
• Filed under Articles
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